LWA: Living While Angry
By Gregory Ross
Living in a state of anger is senseless and desperate, but it seems in my life, at times, unavoidable. DWA, driving while angry, a subset of LWA is dangerous, self destructive and hazardous to others. I try to avoid both. Some strategies I use are meditation, yoga, group and individual therapy and on a less healthy level, isolating myself from the outside world. Don't go anywhere unless it is absolutely necessary, especially by car. But, some days I could not get further than my bathroom if I followed that rule religiously.
The day I am thinking of I was trying to get to the Oakland Veterans Assistance Center to be on time for a weekly PTSD Check-In group. I was driving down a four lane main street to get to a freeway. I got stuck behind a delivery truck taking up the whole lane, too high to see over, which makes me nervous since I can't see what is happening and driving at least ten miles under the speed limit. To say I was getting impatient, would be an understatement. I kept trying to get around it, but the left lane was filled. I had my blinker on, but no one let me in. I have a self imposed principle to let in cars in the very situation in which I found myself. Unless they are a giant pick up truck, SUV, Humvee or 18-wheeler trying to use their size to intimidate me, then I stand my ground. Until it gets too dangerous.
Just as the delivery truck turned onto another street a small car cut in front of me, then quickly darted back to the left lane. This involved some quick brake skills on my part. I was able to pull up next to it as the light turned red. I gave the young male driver a one finger salute. To my surprise, he powered his passenger window down. I put my window down and he said, "What are you so angry about?" I replied, not the obvious "Your asshole driving skills," but without thinking, "I am a Vietnam Vet who survived a war for starters. I am in almost constant pain due to arthritis, I have to use a cane and a walker and I take too many medications." He replied, "Oh, uh, thank you for your service," a hot button phrase for me. He immediately powered his passenger window up. The light changed to green. Surprisingly, I did not smash into him.
When I got to the Check-In Group I brought up the event. We discussed, with some humor, the irony of life post war. Me, rushing wrathfully to get to a meeting designed to help me curb my anger. So what if I was late? If only I truly could embrace that calm approach to life concept. I made it home uneventfully, but drove nowhere the rest of the day.
Gregory Ross: Navy, Morocco, sinking of the USS Liberty and the 6 Day War [1967-68]. Vietnam; 7th fleet on the Gun Line [1969-70]. Graduate, VA Detox and PTSD program ; Acupuncturist, Detox specialty, 1989 to 2011. Published in Anthology: "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace" edited by Maxine Hong Kingston.